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Chapter One

An orange glow appeared on the horizon. As the incandescent light spread, the ocean turned blue and separated itself from the sky.

She welcomed the sun—she had been awake all night and was about to explode with the energy flooding her body. The bare wood of the Colony Beach Club deck chair hurt her back. Still, she felt safer than the night before, when she lay on the beach, fearful that the men who lived beneath the sand would reach up and cut her with their long knives.

She looked at her pink plastic watch, which matched her pink backpack. It was 6:30 a.m. In another hour, the September sun would begin to bake all of Southern California. In two hours, the beach club members would begin to arrive, but she would be long gone.

The ladies’ room on the deck was unlocked—a godsend. She picked up her backpack and went inside. She slipped out of her leather sandals, stripped off her clothes and gazed at her thin reflection in the mirror above the sink. Her blue eyes were crystal clear, reflecting the strength and power she felt, but her short blond hair needed washing. She twisted her torso from side to side and stretched her hands above her head. She couldn’t see it yet, but it was there, in her belly. She had known for six weeks. There was no doubt.

She washed herself as best she could in the sink, using the scented soap from the dispenser and wiped away the water with paper towels. She stuffed her dirty sweatshirt into her pack, pulled on her grimy white shorts and the brilliant blue CALIFORNIA T-shirt she had found on the clubhouse deck. She let the water run over her toothbrush and scrubbed her teeth.

When she left the washroom, the sun was in full ascent. She slung her pack over one shoulder, carried her sandals in her hand and walked off the deck and far enough out into the water to make it around the fence. She stopped for a moment to empty the bottles of Seroquil and Lithium into the ocean and then scrambled up over the rocks onto the shoulder of Pacific Coast Highway.

In the early morning, the road was deserted. She felt she could walk from Santa Monica to San Francisco without stopping. After a mile, she made a detour through a parking lot and dropped the pink backpack behind a row of steel trash dumpsters.

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